SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Missourians wanting a medical marijuana patient card will be able to apply a week earlier than expected, the Department of Health and Senior Services announced late last week.
According to the DHSS, it will start accepting patient and caregiver applications June 28, six days before the July 4 deadline. The DHSS states physician certifications should be attached to patient applications. Click HERE to see the physician certification form.
Right now, the state of Missouri requires doctors to certify a patient has a qualifying condition for medical marijuana. The state does not require doctors to prescribe specific dosages to patients.
Those qualifying conditions include cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma and other chronic conditions that cause pain like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.
Patients might have a qualifying condition, but they might have trouble finding a doctor to certify them.
Jeff Howell, with the Missouri State Medical Association, said in a statement the MSMA "believes all treatment and therapies should be studied rigorously and be evidence-based." It states medical marijuana does not meet those standards.
"We do not believe physicians should be forced to certify patients and physicians should be allowed to refuse to do so without penalty," Howell said in the statement.
Mercy spokesperson Sonya Kullman wrote in an email Mercy does not have a finalized marijuana policy yet.
Kaitlyn McConnell, CoxHealth spokesperson, stated Amendment 2 "prompted a variety of complex questions, many of which are still in the process of being discussed."
McConnell stated, ultimately, marijuana is still federally illegal. She wrote in an email, "We are confident that patients will find ready resources for medical marijuana in the community that will facilitate ease of access consistent with the new state laws."
The MSMA also stated stand-alone clinics should require in-person exams before certifying a patient for medical marijuana.
One of those clinics is Elite Pain Management. It has been offering medical marijuana certification appointments for about one month, according to Justin Hobbs, the Regional Director of Operations.
Hobbs said he can understand why Mercy and CoxHealth might not be ready to get involved with medical marijuana certifications, since it is still federally illegal.
"That federal regulation holds high on a lot of bigger organizations, especially if they cross state lines. Mercy and Cox, you know, they do have some relationships with other states and some other locations so that could kind of probably play into a lot of it," Hobbs said.
Hobbs said Elite Pain Management considers medical marijuana to be another treatment for pain, like opioids, behavioral therapy and physical therapy.
"We want to try every method we can," he said. "It’s not a patient’s decision in most cases, it’s a provider-patient relationship. They develop that relationship and they discuss potential options."
He said for patients to receive medical marijuana certifications, they need their medical records, complete with diagnosis from a doctor. Hobbs said for anxiety or PTSD, the diagnosis needs to come from a psychiatrist. For epilepsy, the diagnosis should be from a neurologist. Once Elite Pain Management's physicians can verify the diagnosis, then they can certify patients for medical marijuana.
"We’re still not even saying they need it," Hobbs said. "We’re saying that they qualify based on the diagnosis that they can obtain it if they so wish, basically."
Hobbs said the early application date for medical marijuana patients could move the timeline up for everything else, like business licenses. As of right now, the DHSS will not accept medical marijuana business licenses until August 3. That means businesses that grow, process and sell medical marijuana will not be approved until early 2020.
"They can get their certifications now but they’re still not going to be able to obtain anything for a while," Hobbs said.
Sample applications for patients and businesses are available on the DHSS website.
Click HERE to see the sample application for patients.